Almost eight years to the day of their last no-hitter, the Rookie-level Danville Braves repeated the feat.
Bruce Zimmermann and relievers Jacob Belinda and John Curtis combined on a seven-inning gem in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader as Danville beat Bristol, 5-0, at Boyce Cox Field. The no-no was the team's first since Aug. 11, 2009, when Cory Rasmus opened a doubleheader with a seven-inning masterpiece.
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"It was something special, for sure," Zimmermann said. "I'm just glad to be a part of it."
Zimmermann, a fifth-round pick in this year's Draft, struck out Yondry Contreras to start the game before walking Ryan Peurifoy, but he bounced back to retire the final two batters of the opening inning. That walk proved to be the lone baserunner allowed by Danville as Zimmermann induced three consecutive groundouts in the second to end his outing.
2017 Minor League milestones
"As a starter, I would always kind of build up throughout the game; going out there now I have to get extra hot in the 'pen," Zimmermann said. "I can't always use all of my pitches the first couple innings, so [it's about] being able to command the zone and doing it in a minimal amount of pitches."
Belinda (4-0) relieved Zimmermann and struck out four in four perfect innings. The Braves' 10th-round pick threw 29 of 41 pitches for strikes in his longest outing as a pro, surpassing his previous high of 2 1/3 innings on July 27 against Johnson City.
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"It feels pretty good," Belinda said of the no-hitter. "Bruce started it off strong but is limited with pitch count and stuff, and I'm in the same boat. We just tried to go as long as we could."
Eighth-round pick John Curtis finished off the Pirates with a perfect seventh, striking out Ben Bengtson and Huascar Fuentes on four pitches apiece to etch the trio's names in the Appalachian League record book.
"After I came out after the sixth I noticed in the seventh we had a shot, especially when I knew John was coming in to close it out," Belinda said. "We have a good pitching staff and it's capable [of this] at any point in time."
In an interesting twist, Zimmerman, Belinda and Curtis are products of Division II colleges. Zimmermann attended Mount Olive (North Carolina), Belinda pitched at Lock Haven (Pennsylvania) and Curtis is out of Lenoir-Rhyne (North Carolina).
"I don't know if it's a bond, but we come from the same background," Zimmermann said. "D-II is getting better, but it doesn't have the same recognition of D-I. It may not be a chip on the shoulder, but it's fun to compete and show our schools deserve recognition for getting us to this point. It's a good feeling seeing guys from the same background do well."
Braves No. 20 prospect Drew Waters went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI to pace the Danville offense, while Jeffrey Ramos and Riley Delgado added two knocks apiece.
Danville's Jaret Hellinger (2-2) surrendered four runs on four hits and two walks over 3 1/3 innings as the D-Braves dropped the nightcap, 4-1.
Evan Piechota struck out seven over four two-hit innings for the Pirates, who got a pair of hits and a run scored from Bengston.